The set of Propers for The Feast of Saints (Gradualia
, 1605) with its two equal soprano parts has a luminous quality and is the most joyous and witty set that Byrd produced. The vigorous Introit (Gaudeamus omnes
) gives way to a more meditative setting of the Gradual (Timete Dominum
) and Alleluia (Venite ad me
) where Byrd indulges his love of musical games at the words ‘Come to me, all you who labour’. The ‘labour’ is complex but the style rather light and filigree and it is hard not to have in mind the companion text ‘his yoke is easy and his burden is light’. The words which follow, ‘and I will refresh you’, feel rather like an intellectual musical work-out, complex but satisfying. The Offertory Iustorum animae
is a serene reminder that those who have died lie in the peace of God. Beati mundo corde
, the Communion sentence, is a setting of some words from the Beatitudes. Byrd starts with just three voices for the first phrase, before moving to four voices and then five in a completely satisfying setting of a text which must have spoken clearly to the Catholic community.
from notes by Andrew Carwood © 2010